Johnny Petraglia Honored with 53rd Sam Levine Flowers for the Living Award
The 2014 Sam Levine Flowers for the Living Award, sponsored by The Bowling Foundation, goes to Brunswick Professional Staff Member and Hall of Famer Johnny Petraglia, Manalapan, New Jersey. Petraglia, 67, is well known as the only Professional Bowlers Association champion in six decades, winning 14 PBA Tour titles, 8 PBA50 Tour titles, and numerous other titles on the lanes, including 4 Newsday Eastern Open crowns in the early years of his career, defeating many of the best bowlers in the world in
that grueling 85 game event. He is also a PBA Triple Crown winner.
Petraglia provided one of the most exciting moments in bowling history when he rolled a 300 game on national television in 1994 to earn a $100,000 bonus. After the final strikes, he said “Thank God, now my son can go to college.” (and John Jr. did attend and bowl at Moorhead State University)
The Flowers Award, however, is not being given to Petraglia for his bowling prowess or superior performance. He was chosen for his outstanding character, integrity, and outspokenness about important issues throughout his career representing the best of bowling on and off the lanes.
The legendary Sam Weinstein described the award eloquently . . .”Not for any outstanding deed or spectacular accomplishment, but just for being a person in our world who truly deserves a pat on the back to let them know we love them and admire them for what they have done and stood for.”
A couple of important milestones in Johnny Petraglia’s life, his military service and signing to represent Brunswick, instilled in him the importance of character and integrity, and explain his ability and desire to set a shining example for his peers, fans, and fellow pros; these life lessons also have made him fiercely loyal to family, friends, and grateful for all those he meets in his extensive travels.
Not fond of airlines, Petraglia has logged millions of miles from coast-to-coast in his Brunswick SUVs. Imagine how many great bowling and life discussions he has enjoyed along the road. After becoming one of the best bowlers in the land and winning his first pro title in 1966, Petraglia served in the U.S. Army during the Viet Nam War. He was there during the horrific Tet Offensive in ’68., and it took him more than a year to get back in bowling shape in ’69 before resuming his PBA career in the 1970 season.
In an interview in 2007, he told Stars & Strikes “I learned through my experience in Viet Nam and the military, how great this country is and how important freedom is.”
That experience inspired him to represent the Bowlers to Veterans Link, raising millions for military vets through bowling. Petraglia has personally organized many BVL fund raisers over the years, and visited countless vets in VA hospitals throughout his career.
After he won five PBA titles in 1971, and three consecutive ending with the Tournament of Champions, all of the ball companies were after him to be on their pro staff. With his dad’s encouragement, he chose Brunswick. “Signing with Brunswick was the best career move of my life,” he said in the 2007 interview. “My dad told me that the number one thing they were looking for was character, and he was right. They have been like a second family. It is a great company to work for.”
Petraglia has never backed down from taking a stand on any issue that will help bowling. That commitment is one of the reasons why he was proud to serve three two-year terms as PBA President. Petraglia’s best friends in bowling also speak of his character…“Johnny, Dave Soutar and I roomed together for 34 years on the tour, and during all that time, we never had one serious argument,” said fellow Hall of Famer Dave Davis. “He is very honest and loyal, and a strong family man.” Judy and Dave Soutar, who served alongside Petraglia on the Brunswick Pro Staff had this to say: “Dave and I know Johnny as a great bowler, a great story teller who is never at a loss for words, and a great friend. We share so many wonderful memories.”
In 2015, Johnny Petraglia will celebrate his 50th year as a PBA member and as one of bowling’s greatest ambassadors of all time. He joins past Flowers Award winners Earl Anthony, Joe Norris, Marion Ladewig, Dick Weber, Don and Paula Carter, Jack Reichert, and last year’s winner John Summer to mention only a few.
The Flowers for the Living Award began in 1961, inspired by the “Flowers for the Living” poem written by Ohio Associated Press editor Fritz Howell, one of its founders and a member of the first committee. Other founders were Sam Levine, Cleveland Kegler, Steve Crucheon, Detroit Bowlers Digest, Billy Sixty, Milwaukee Journal, Bill Hengen, Minneapolis Star, and Tom Bolger, Toledo Blade. The award is managed today by an independent panel of industry writers and executives who nominate candidates and select a winner each year. To maintain its independence and integrity, the ballots are kept secret, and the winners are not revealed until the time of presentation.
Courtesy Jim Goodwin, Committee Chairman